Two eminent scientists had come out with the first modern model of the origin of life in the 1920s. Russian biochemist Aleksandr Ivanovich Oparin (February 18, 1894 – April 21, 1980) and British born biologist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (November 5, 1892 – December 1, 1964) became famous for their studies on the origin of life from chemical matter. It may be noted that Haldane, popularly known as JBS, became an Indian citizen in 1956. He was an outstanding scientist and a polymath who contributed significantly to Physiology, Genetics, Biochemistry, Statistics, Biometry, Cosmology and Philosophy. As far as his personal beliefs are concerned, JBS was an atheist and a Marxist. As he was forced to leave Britain in 1956 for his political views in the aftermath of the Second World War, JBS arrived in eastern Indian city of Kolkata (then Calcutta) and joined the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) as a professor.
When US-based science fiction anthologist Edward Groff Conklin (September 6, 1904 – July 19, 1968) described JBS as a world citizen in 1962, the latter had reportedly mentioned: “No doubt I am in some sense a citizen of the world. But, I believe with Thomas Jefferson that one of the chief duties of a citizen is to be a nuisance to the Government of his State. As there is no World State, I cannot do this.“
JBS also said: “On the other hand, I can be, and am, a nuisance to the Government of India, which has the merit of permitting a good deal of criticism, though it reacts to it rather slowly. I also happen to be proud of being a citizen of India, which is a lot more diverse than Europe, let alone the US, the USSR or China, and thus a better model for a possible world organisation. It may of course break up, but it is a wonderful experiment. So, I want to be labeled as a citizen of India.“
Time has changed since the demise of JBS in 1980. In the last four decades, the Government of India has emerged as a nuisance to the people of the South Asian nation. However, the Indian citizens have failed to be a nuisance to their Government, allowing the Indian State to become an authoritarian one. Now, the Political Society is constantly influencing the Civil Society in India in order to fulfil its vested interests. At a time when a lot of people feel loyalty to a Leader or a Party is a form of Nationalism, JBS’ view is worth remembering.
One can hope against hope that the Indians shall become a nuisance to their Government soon, and shall be able to protect the basic characters of the Indian State: Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republic (as described in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution).
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